While hurricane Danielle was performing a glancing blow to our little Island on 29 August 1998, by dropping intermittent heavy rain and very strong winds, my husband, David received a phone call in the General Store from a near neighbor, Hazel Wilson, who said she had an unusual bird on her front porch. Since my husband and I are avid birders, this peaked our curiosity. We closed the store for a few minutes and made our way to Hazel's home, finding a lovely pigeon huddled under a chair on her porch. She was afraid her cat would perform the feline instinctive act and do away with it, so she asked us to take it to our house. As I picked up the pigeon, I noticed that both legs were banded....on the left leg was a plain pink plastic band, and on the right leg was a red metal band with the inscription CU 98 GTR 10131. Naturally, since pigeons are not born banded, I was sure the bird was a homing pigeon......next was the problem of finding out who owned it.
Off to the search engines I headed. Because of the close proximity of NS to New England, I really didn't know just where to start..figuring the best bet was to search for Homing Pigeons. The site I ended up on gave the abbreviations of the different clubs throughout the world, so the CU in the band was rather easy....CU or CRPU which means Canadian Racing Pigeon Union. From there, and with the help of a fellow surfer we were able to find a phone number for a member in New Brunswick. Leaving a message about the found bird, I waited for a call-back. When it finally came I was given 2 Nova Scotia numbers, receiving an answer on the last number. The gentleman was very nice, called me back shortly, and gave me the phone number and name of Scotty Reid from St. Peter's, NS, located in Cape Breton. Scotty has kept racing pigeons for many years and was able to find out the name of the Loft where the bird was from and also the owner.
The band information read as follows: CU (Canadian Racing Pigeon Union) 98 (year of the birth of the bird) GTR (Golden Triangle loft) and 10131 (the number of the owner). It appeared that the pigeon had been in a race 5 weeks ago and never returned to his loft in Athens, Ontario, a mere 600 or so miles from Tancook!!!! Now that I was thoroughly aware of what the band on the bird's right leg meant, the time was to recapture it. Owning a blue headed conure myself, I had bird food handy and proceeded to put some in a dish on my front porch as well as a dish of water. The bird was very picky about what it ate, devouring only tiny white seeds that were in my parrot's food. We sifted the seed after that, only offering millet and this white seed, of which I'm not sure of the identity.
The pigeon spent time on our porch or a neighbor's roof so we had time to devise traps. The first was the ordinary cardboard-box-stick trap. DAY 1 - PROCEDURE: place white seeds and water under box, attach string to stick which is placed under edge of box, run string behind bush on side lawn. Wait. OUTCOME: tried 2 times, failed 2 times. By this time night is beginning to fall and pigeon has found a roost somewhere out of sight. Scotty calls the first night wanting to know if we have had any luck catching CU 98 GTR 10131. I was sorry to report the failure. Now the big question....Will the pigeon return??? Answer: YES!!!!!!
DAY 2 - PROCEDURE: Scotty suggested throwing a blanket over the bird. Wait. OUTCOME: tried 3 times, all three were near-misses!!!!! Nightfall again! Scotty calls the second night wanting to know if we have had any luck catching CU 98 GTR 10131. I was sorry to report the failure. Now the big question....Will the pigeon return??? Answer: YES!!!!!!
DAY 3 - PROCEDURE: Cut out a piece of a fishing net that I found in the General Store...attach monofilament to four corners...join line and bring up through eyehook in porch ceiling...attach rock on other end of monofilament...when bird walks across net after those delicious white seeds, toss rock on ground, bird will be trapped in net.
OUTCOME: First try: bird flew out the limp side of net! PROCEDURE: Attach monofilament to middle of 4 sides of net...join line to main monofilament...reset scene (This time it HAS to work!!!) OUTCOME: Bird arrives very cautiously...walks to side of net, proceeds towards delicious seeds, gets toe caught up in side mesh...drags side of net inward towards pile of seeds. Be patient! Ready? Toss rock.....perfect catch??? NO!!!!!! Bird slips out side of mesh where it had it's toe caught!!! Well there is always another day, I hope!!!
During the night of September 2, there was much noise and commotion here on the Island because of the SwissAir crash....helicopters with search lights shining on water and shore in front of house, flares lighting up the sky like noontime on a cloudless day. The following day I was up early, after having little or no sleep, to get ready to go to Halifax to visit my daughter for lunch and do a little shopping. At 7 a.m. I looked out the kitchen window to see a car pulling up the driveway. I went to the door and one of the gals here asked me if I wanted a bird!!!!!!! She reached in the back seat of her car, pulled out a cage carrying case and in it was CU 98 GTR 10131!!!!! When she told me where she found the bird, I understood.....it seems it was so disturbed by all the noise on this side of the Island that it flew to the far end and was perched on a dock where people were coming back from their search efforts. I had told this gal about the pigeon, so she knew this was the one and she walked up behind it, picked it up, put it under her coat and when she got home she caged it. Boy, what luck!!!!!!
Well, I immediately called Scotty to tell him....then I caught the ferry to the mainland, drove right to the bus terminal in Halifax and bought the bird a bus ticket for St. Peter's, NS. Only....I had missed the one daily bus to St. Peter's! Thoughts raced through my mind like.....should I head for the train terminal???? or even the airport???? or out of desperation a swank hotel to catch a limo that just might be going in the right direction??? Those thoughts were just fleeting! Luckily I had brought along the cage as well as the box I had made to transport the bird in, so I asked my daughter if she would kindly bird-sit overnight and get it to the bus terminal before 8:15 the following morning.......all's well that ends well!!!!!!!
Scotty called me that night, I told him the scenario, and said the long lost would be safely in St. Peter's by the next afternoon. And SHE did arrive safely, thanks to all involved.....my great cousin Janet (for her patience and family craziness), to Donna Baker for rescuing her on the wharf, to the bus line for getting her to Scotty, to my daughter for bird-sitting, and last but not least to Scotty Reid for all his patience, suggestions, encouragement, caring and his great Scottish burr!!! Thank you one and all!!!!!!!!!